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Nationals-Giants Preview

AP - Sports

Although the San Francisco Giants have one of the majors' top rotations, the Washington Nationals are teeing off on them like they're throwing batting practice.

The NL East-leading Nationals look to build on their highest-scoring game of the season and knock around Madison Bumgarner for the second time in six weeks Tuesday night at AT&T Park.

In Monday's opener, Washington (72-44) made quick work of Ryan Vogelsong, who came in with an NL-best 2.27 ERA, battering him for eight runs in 2 2-3 innings. The Nationals cruised to a 14-2 victory, winning for the ninth time in 10 contests to open a 5 1/2-game division lead for the first time since July 3, 2005.

"It was fun to watch the offense," Davey Johnson said. "We beat up on a pretty good pitcher."

Washington, which hasn't been 6 1/2 games ahead since 1994, erupted for 21 hits Monday, as Nos. 6-8 batters Danny Espinosa, Roger Bernadina and Kurt Suzuki combined to go 11 for 18 with 10 RBIs.

The Nationals have outscored the Giants 38-14 in winning the season's first four meetings, with Espinosa batting .588 with five RBIs, and Bryce Harper, who had a pair of singles Monday, hitting .400 with six runs.

"We've had a tough time against this club," Bruce Bochy said. "It's a tough lineup to get through, but you can't think like that. You've got to execute and make your pitches."

Monday's loss dropped the Giants into a first-place tie with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.

San Francisco's starters have a 12.74 ERA in the season series with Washington, and Bumgarner (12-7, 3.08 ERA) took a beating in one of those game. In the nation's capital on July 4, the left-hander surrendered a season-worst seven runs and nine hits - including homers to Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse and Jhonatan Solano - in five innings of a 9-4 loss.

Bumgarner could fare a bit better in a rematch at AT&T Park, where he is 4-0 with a 1.61 ERA in his last six starts.

The Giants (63-53), though, will be up against Jordan Zimmermann, who is 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA in his past five road starts.

With Vogelsong getting shelled Monday, Zimmermann (9-6, 2.35) became the league's ERA leader, and since June 22, his 1.60 ERA is the best in baseball. Against the Giants on July 3, he gave up two runs and seven hits while striking out seven in six innings of a 9-3 win. He has a 1.89 ERA in winning his last three starts in the series.

Zimmermann was sharp again Thursday in Houston, yielding three hits while matching a career high with 11 strikeouts in six innings of a 5-0 win. The right-hander bounced back after allowing a season-high five runs in five innings against Miami on Aug. 4.

That was the only time in his six starts since the All-Star break he gave up more than one run. The Nationals have won all those games.

"I feel like I have a pretty good season going right now," Zimmermann told the Nationals' official website. "I just want to finish strong and not fall off toward the end."

Bumgarner has a 2.54 ERA in his six starts since the break, with 45 strikeouts in 39 innings.

In St. Louis on Thursday, he allowed three runs and three hits with seven strikeouts in six innings of a 3-1 loss.

Pablo Sandoval (hamstring strain) was activated from the disabled list Monday and fouled out as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning. He is 2 for 5 with a double against Zimmermann.

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